Many have speculated on the future direction of the auto industry. Auto executives have been under the gun to find ways of rejuvenating the big 3, or at least keeping them afloat long enough for the economy, and the car buying public to rebound.
However, the future of the auto industry just might depend more on the after-market, than on the auto manufacturers. It is clear that energy prices and especially gasoline prices, have become expensive and will remain expensive for the foreseeable future, and possibly forever. Short of a major drop in oil prices for a sustained period of time, we will likely not see a change in consumer attitudes towards purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles. Even if prices fall and remain low, consumers do care about the environment, so it is likely that demand for vehicles that gt good gas mileage will remain high, regardless of where prices may go.
Here is the rub - and what the automakers seem to have completely failed to see: consumers want fuel-efficient vehicles, and are willing to pay extra to get them, but they also need and want large SUVs so they can take the kids camping, pull a boat to the lake, and go to Home Depot on the weekend and buy supplies for their home improvement projects. A Prius just isn't going to cut it. What is needed is an affordable conversion kit that can make any vehicle a fuel-efficient electric hybrid.
There are some companies already providing a conversion for some vehicles, although most are focused on converting already efficient vehicles, like the Prius into full electrics. These companies appear to be operated by people motivated more by their environmental beliefs than by their desire to build a profitable business. Further, the conversion kits I have seen are costs - running about $5,000. These kits also include a large number of very bulky, heavy lead-acid batteries, which won't always fit in every car.
Sooner of later, a company will come along that develops an affordable, compact conversion kit that works in virtually any vehicle, that can make even the biggest gas guzzlers relatively fuel-efficient. The person who finds the right solution to this problem will not only make a lot of money, but they will lead the entire auto industry in an entirely new direction.
There is no reason why fuel efficiency and having a roomy, capable vehicle must be mutually exclusive. Once a conversion is made widely available int eh after-market, the automakers will adopt the new technology, and only then will we make a real positive impact on our fuel consumption and dependence on foreign sources of crude oil.